Url Phantomhive

Url Phantomhive

Trying to shed a light on the wonderful maze of books...

Review
2.5 Stars
Literary Places
Literary Places (Inspired Traveller's Guide) - Sarah Baxter, Amy Grimes

This was not at all what I had expected it to be. First of all, it wasn't really so much a Traveller's Guide, as a book with short descriptions of books and some of the locations it was set in. If I were planning an actual literary based holiday, I doubt this would have helped me.

What it does do is describe all books it mentioned shortly, and since I read less than a quarter of all the books mentioned this was nice. However, not really a travel guide. It then goes a bit deeper into some of the places that are mentioned (or sometimes not mentioned) in the book. While interesting, there were many instances of books chosen where you can not visit the places because they have either been demolishes, or the actual location was never given in the book and the author suggests it might have taken place there. This concept became repetitive rather quickly, and I would have liked to see some more variation.

Everything was accompanied by some colorful, bright drawings which I really enjoyed even though they were quite simple in style. For me, they were the part I enjoyed best. While I liked the idea of Literary Places, I found it was not what I expected and I think there could have been more in the book.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

Review
4 Stars
The Connelly Boys
The Connelly Boys (Celtic Witches #1) - Lily Velez

It's somewhere between 3.5 and 4 stars, actually, as I quite liked this Celtic mystery. Scarlet has just moved to Ireland after her mother passed away, and she is still settling in her new school, an all male boarding school. Soon, however she finds out there is more to this world than she ever expected.

The story started with Scarlet stating how fabulous all the boys at her new school are, moving from one to the next, and I admit, for a second I was worried. Luckily once she has established how interesting all the Connelly boys are the story much improved. It had me guessing for a while and even though not everything came as a surprise to me in the end, it didn't bother me. Some things were a bit glanced over in this book, but I would like to see if they are explained further on.

What I liked was that while it is clear from the start who the love-interest will be, the other brothers are not entirely pushed into the sidelines but rather play their own part in the story. I would like to see where this is going.

The author provided me with a free copy of this book. This review, however, solely contains my own opinions.

 

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This was my read for square 18. Set in a school. However, except for the opening scenes the book doesn't take place in school, so I will only roll one dice this turn.

Review
3 Stars
Aria
Aria, Volume 1 - Kozue Amano


I don't read a lot of manga. I've read Death Note and a couple of others but not enough to really know something about the genre, but since I like to read comics/graphic novels every now and then I wanted to try Aria, in which the main character travels to Mars, now called Aqua to become an Undine who rows the gondolas through Neo Venice.

I was not completely prepared for the weirdness of the CEO being a cat, but said, the rest was pretty normal. I think this would classify as 'casual', which is how Netflix has started describing series that are nice to watch but where there is not a lot happening. She is training to be an Undine, and that's what happens. There is never really any kind of problem and she just seems to be having a good time. One thing I liked was the lights festival with lights that glow for a month and afterwards everyone collects at the sea to bid them farewell.

However, it seemed rather unnecessary to put the story in space, as everything seemed about the same, except for the cat. Also why did Mars have to be called Aqua and Earth Manhome? I quite liked the art though and it was a nice and quick read.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

Tackling Mt TBR (With Numbers And Stats)

This post has been in the making for a while. I've been struggling with the TBR seemingly forever, and every couple of months I come up with something new I sure hope will do the trick, except of course the only thing that will really work: not adding books. Point is, it is still growing, but I wanted to get a better view of its composition and I decided to throw another of my hobbies onto it, i.e. making lists and collecting stats, to get a better view of what exactly I still have on my shelves.

 

I hope not to bore you with these stats, but since I know that at least some of you enjoy these kind of stats yourselves, I wanted to share them with you. The first thing I did was by hand, collecting the books I had read starting from 2014 (when I really got going with the reviewing thing and started keeping good records of when I received and read book). For the unread books I took a GR library export which I fine tuned a bit (this was not really possible for the read books because there is a bug currently that dates are incorrectly processed when books are finished the same day as they were started). To this I added some additional information, for example the book format I have in my library, the language (EN/NL for me) and the gender of the author. This was by far the most work and after was finished, the real fun could start.

 

What follows is the accumulation of >1400 books I read between 1/1/2014 and 17/2/19 and >1700 books waiting on my TBR also accurate until 17/2/19.

 

I started with some random, useless, information like the day in the year I add the most books (July 19th) and the month where books added usually need to wait longest to be read (January; 391 days). After playing around for a bit I took a look at my TBR (I'm not afraid to call it a mountain, because that is what it has become). First I wanted to know the book format of my TBR, I was pretty sure it was mostly ebooks (they are so easy to add) and this proved right. By far the biggest fraction of my books is in English, which didn't surprise me either, as I have the feeling I almost exclusively read English these days. What did surprise me a bit was that almost half of my current TBR was added in 2015 (~45%). This was the year I first got a KIndle (hello, free ebooks!) and I got a lot of ARCs. Please note that I joined GR in 2011 and all books that were in my possession prior to this day have been marked 2011 (because I didn't keep records of buying books before that).

I then looked a bit deeper into what I added per year. I expected to find lots and lots of ebooks, especially in 2015, both in my total library and the TBR. Ebooks are indeed the most common books in my library, followed by books made from trees. Some audiobooks are also present, but this is mainly limited to the SYNC books and some freebies from audible. After the "child-in-candy-store" syndrome of 2015, my adding of books has somewhat normalized, but is still very high. Also, even though I've already read around 400 of the books I added in 2015, still around 800 remain. But it was nice to see I finished reading most of the books from 2011 to 2014 (with 2012 and 2013 cleared altogether).

The next figure started as another fun statistic, but it actually showed some really interesting things. The months I add the most books are typically months were I have more days off, like July (summer holidays), December (Christmas holidays) and May (Labour Day, Ascension Day, Pentacost; plus the winter season of books is announced in May). The ebooks (data not shown) show pretty much the same distribution, while the audiobooks (also not shown), follow the yearly SYNC months). The tree books however, follow a different pattern, which can nevertheless be easily explained. April is my birthday and as everyone knows what to get me, it is a huge supply of books for me. In June and August I have usually trips to London for the theater season, and I can never resist the chance of browsing real English book stores (which we lack where I live). December is holiday season.

Last year I started the ambitious project of clearing away the old book from my TBR. As is shown above, there is still some work. What I wanted to plot was the number of days a book would spend on the TBR, so the days between adding the book and finishing it. On the left it just shows these data for all the individual books, while in the middle I've calculated the median of days books spend on the TBR (which is 37). On the right you can see my effort to improve the reading of books that I've had for a while (from 22 in 2017 to 1068 in 2018). While it's to early to say something about 2019 yet, the median currently is 1341.

Knowing that my approach seemed to work, at least as far as reading the older books was concerned, I wondered whether the TBR represented the overall composition of my library, or that I was skewed to leaving certain books on there. Looking at the books I read, it seems I have a slight tendency to read more ebooks, which was the feeling I had myself, because it is so easy to read on the eReader, especially when traveling or for example in bed, because the viewing angles are better compared to tree books.

 

I have also read mainly English books in the last five years (recently I even read a Flemish book in English translation!). It has come to the point were reading in Dutch often feels less comfortable to me, and a little bit strange. That's how used I've become to reading in English. I find that it has really helped me to develop my English language skills, considering it was my worst subject in high school. The graph on the right shows what I alluded to earlier, namely that I've spend last year reading books that I more or less had forgotten about or at least they never got read until that time. The percentage of ROOT (read our own tomes, books that were in my possession before the start of the year) for me was 61%, far surpassing 2016 and 2017. For this year, I am once again aiming for 60% of books I owned before the start of 2019. Finally, I show the months in which I read the most, which mostly follows the months with days off (reading time!), as well as November, in which there are also some holidays, I tend to have a lot of vacation days left (which I try to spend a couple of) and I feel the end of the reading challenge nearing, so I have to get my act together ;).

I then wanted to figure out what this all means to my library. How do the read and unread books compare. As I already knew, I have slightly more (1400 vs 1700) unread than read books. When I looked at the pages (as provided by GR) it would seem I've only read about 1/3 of my entire library. So, I guess I better get back to reading. When looking per year, the one thing that stood out for me was the side effect of my above described ROOT project. My proportion of read book from 2018 has dropped. One other reason for this is the Penguin Modern Mints books that were published last year and that I bought completely, but since I still have to finish the Little Black Classics, I haven't started to read them yet.

One thing I also wanted to look at was the gender distribution in my library. I always had the feeling this was rather balanced, and the data confirms this. There are some slight fluctuations between years (45% to 50% female authors), but on average 48% of my books is written by women. The distribution is exactly the same for my TBR, showing no preference.

Sure, this is all nice to know, but I was supposed to be tackling this Mt TBR. For the final time I looked at the data to see (and confront myself) with the biggest problem. An ever growing TBR of course has a clear cause: books that are added. This is why I plotted the number of books I've added and the number of books I've read per month. The dotted line represents the median of the combined years (40 added books and 21 read books each month). There is also some good news as the median of added books has dropped over the last couple of years and was only 22 for 2018.

How to go from here? It's clear I should try to do something, but I know it doesn't help to give myself a book buying ban, because as with very strict dieting, these things don't work. However, even if I would assume I keep reading 20 books a month for the next years and add only 15, this would mean I would clean the TBR in about 30 years. Which doesn't sound very appealing. However, a couple of remarks should be made. This TBR contains everything I own, including a lot of books (sometimes complete series) from people who wanted to get rid of them and donated them to me because 'I like books'. I'm not sure I'll ever get to reading them since for now I'm mainly focusing on the ARCs I still have and the tree books, since I don't like standing in front of a book case were I have not read half of the books (at least if it is my own book case). On the other hand, the idea of not having some books available to read is even more terrifying. Maybe a hundred books or so? To have some choice...

 

Sorry about all the rambling. Now, about your TBR? Any tips or strategies you would like to share?

Review
3 Stars
Vivatera
Vivatera - Candace J. Thomas

Vivatera is the first in a Young Adult fantasy series that focuses on Naomi, who discovers secret powers in herself and a bunch of other people. Add to this an interesting magic system, a corrupted king and something like a magic school and I was sure to take the bait.

This was a fun, quick read. The story starts quickly and I was drawn into the story from the beginning. There is just enough mystery and guessing to make you want to continue, and while I first read it as part of all the books I'm currently reading, I decided to give it some priority and after that finished it almost in one sitting.

While I liked the story and the magic seems complex, in the sense that it is eating the people from the inside out since humans are not supposed to mingle with magic, Naomi I liked less. She was the typical sort of perfect, much more special than anyone else kind of girl which is kind of cringe-worthy. It was why I liked the secondary plot arc, following Zander, more, even though Naomi was the one who was kind of in magic school.

I will probably read the second book also.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

 

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This was my read for square 12: Last Name with T to Z. Since I completed the task I get once more to roll two dice.

 

Which lands me on square 18. Set in a school.

Review
2 Stars
The Thorn And The Sinking Stone
The Thorn and the Sinking Stone (Entangled Teen) - CJ Dushinski

It's been a while since The Thorn and the Sinking Stone was added to my shelves, so the details of the blurb were a bit blurry at the start but it became clear very quickly it was based on Romeo and Juliet. Now, I like Shakespeare, but have always been unable to like that insta-romance between two teenagers.

The book has a dystopian setting, but it's good you're reminded about it every now and then, since the world building is so sparse that you would completely forget. Apparently a Final War has raged and the survivors go about as warring gangs. What happened with the rest of the world remains unclear, though they would have enough means of transportation to figure it out. Another consequence of this war, at least that was what was claimed by the dystopian government, was the introduction of the Cursed, people with enhanced abilities. Which you can test for with a blood sample and which, as good old dystopian governments are wont to do with everything they don't fully understand/control, needs to be exterminated. It is a shame, because I for one would have liked to read more about the world and how it came to be.

Instead, the book is filled with the (blooming) romance between the children of two of the warring gangs, who immediately feel, after a kind of Peeta-and-the-bread moment, that the other is so special that they would die for each other. Luckily both are both Cursed with some useful abilities, or they wouldn't have lasted long. It was insta-love, and overall I felt the romance played too big a role in the story.

With a bit more world building and a lot less insta-love, I think I really would have liked the story. Now, unfortunately, it wasn't for me.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review! 

 

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This was my read for square 1 of Snakes and Ladders, since the author is female, I get to roll two dice:

This brings me to square 12. Author's last name begins with the letters T, U, V, W, X, Y, or Z. I'm currently reading Vivatera by Candace J. Thomas, so that fits.

 

 

Review
3 Stars
Timepiece
Timepiece - Heather Albano


I read time travel, so count me in. There's an introduction in the book about the special setting where, from our POV, people from one historical setting visit another one. Besides it is set in an alternative steampunk London where monsters and the machines that were meant to keep them in check roam around.

This is a good example of how thing gradually became worse, with the solution being even worse than the problem and this for several problems. Luckily there is a bunch of time traveling pocket watches available and some young people who are willing to use it to rid the world once and for all of these problems. Our main characters are from Georgian England and it is clear that HG Wells and the like have not yet been around, because of course they should have realized right from the start that History doesn't want to be changed and that these things NEVER end well.

The story was a bit slower than I expected. While they do jump around in time quite some, I was perhaps still used to the mayhem that is St Mary's in that other Time Travel series that I'm reading. I'm however, not entirely on board with the rules of the time travel in this one, especially since they glance over (or at least give a unsatisfactory answer) to two of the most important paradoxes of time travel. I hope this will be resolved a bit better in the next book, which I hope to read soon.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

Review
2.5 Stars
Sea Of Stars
Sea of Stars (The Kricket Series Book 2) - Amy A. Bartol

It's been a while since I read the first book in the series, so some of the details were a bit blurry when I started Sea of Stars. Kricket, the main character with the most *uhm* special name and also her very special character of course, has found her way up in the stars between two (or possibly more) warring alien species/gangs. (I say alien because that is what they say in the book, and they make tiny, stupid human jokes. However, the physical appearance of said aliens is like humans, but ultimately better, obviously).

Where in the first book I was mainly annoyed by A) annoying Kricket and B) the human-like, human-feeling aliens, this time around there was little time for any of that as the story is immediately in full swing. Jumping around from one fight to the next while all that she wants to do is bunk down with her (new?) (insta?) love interest (I seriously can't remember him from the first book, if he was in there). Near the end, the typical end of the second book in a series great revelation is revealed, which will carry the story to the concluding book, which I will probably read sometime soon.

Now, this was actually kind of a nice read, all things considered. It was an easy read, and the things that bothered my in the first book, didn't bother me so much any more. While I had the feeling not a lot happened in the book, it was exciting enough for me to keep reading. It was an easy and quick read and sometimes these are just what you need.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

Review
4 Stars
Skewed
Skewed - Anne McAneny


Skewed had to grow on me. In the beginning I was intrigued, but although I never really got into the story for a while, it kept nagging me at the back of my mind wondering how it was going to end.

Janie has been famous and followed all her life, but not for the right reasons. Her mother was the supposedly last victim of the famous Haiku Killer and killed while Janie was in utero . When Janie starts receiving photographs of the old case and the murderer, her father, is about to be released things will get complicated quickly, especially since he has always claimed to be innocent.

This one really had me guessing until the end, and it has been a while since that happened. In hindsight one can see the hints that are being dropped, but that I didn't take on at first. The main character had a witty sort of sarcasm that I kind of liked. What I was not a big fan of was the second story from Janie's mother's POV which leads up to the murder but didn't add a lot to the story. But, all in all, a nice read that did take some time to get into but it does pay off in the end.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

Review
2.5 Stars
Book Learnin'
Book Learnin': A Pie Comics Collection - John McNamee

Like most comics collections I read, I was not really familiar with Pie Comics yet. The title and the cover however suggested that it had to do with books, so I just had to read it.

It was not what I expected. I'm not sure what I did expect, but it was more than I got. Sure, some of the comics were quite funny, but many were mwah and they were not about books unfortunately. While it wasn't for me, I'm sure fans of the comic will appreciate it.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

Review
2.5 Stars
Division
Division: A Collection of Science Fiction Fairytales - Lee S. Hawke

I hesitate to call the stories in this collection Fairy tales because they never gave off the fairy tale vibe for me. It was a collection of short stories set in different dystopian/high tech futures. And while they are dealing with diverse aspects of possible dystopian futures, I was left wanting something more.

Some of the stories had interesting topics, which I think would have worked better in a longer story where the story/world could have been fleshed out a bit more. I quite liked the writing however, so I might pick up more a longer story by Lee S. Hawke.

Review
3.5 Stars
Shutterspeed (And A Bit On Flemish Literature)
Shutterspeed - Erwin Mortier

Flemish literature and I are not what you would call a happy couple. We more or less tolerate each other as long as we stay away and don't try to mingle. How I ended up reading a Flemish book in English translation beats me, but I am glad I did because this one might save me a trauma.

For those of you unfamiliar with Flemish literature, the main theme is often the coming of age of the main character who's spending the final time of their innocent lives. Some of my previous ventures into the genre ended not so great with me being either bored out of mind after reading a mess of a book (The Sorrow Of Belgium, hailed as one of masterworks of Flemish literature I kept thinking it needed a proper editor) or being disgusted out of my mind also by reading a mess of a book (The Melting, I didn't want to read it but it was the only book people were talking about and kept asking me why I hadn't read it since 'I read books'. The book basically just throws everything it can think of in terms of uneasy/gross things in hope of shocking the audience, but I felt beaten with this cheap trick to incite emotions). Also, the fact that my first thought on finishing Shutterspeed was ' Luckily this one didn't involve a rape '  accounts for something.

Shutterspeed while following the path of the coming of age and his last innocent summer, was much nicer to read. The story is rather slow and I had a slight feeling that had I been reading the book in Dutch I would have found the writing too melodramatic, but in English for some reason I'm more permissive. It's a short read and I would definitely try something else by Erwin Mortier.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

Review
2 Stars
Merlin's Shakespeare
Merlin's Shakespeare - Carol Anne Douglas

Merlin's Shakespeare sounded like something right up my alley. Unfortunately, I couldn't get into it. Beth as the main character is obsessed with Shakespeare's work and of lately also has some magical powers after a rather wonderful production of A Midsummer's Night Dream. She is then cornered by Merlin who asks her to travel back in order to track down a lost play.

Like I said, these are all things I like. I like time travel, I like Shakespeare, I really do, but I found Beth so annoying. Her obsession is unhealthy and it is weird it is supported by the adults. She acts like a small child, making it feel like it was written for a very young audience, although at the same time there is quite some death and cruelty along the way.

The whole reason for looking for the supposedly lost play was rather thin and the story jumped around a lot, focusing then on these and then on those characters. The characters from the plays were in my opinion the most interesting aspects of the story, only their dialogue was often very cranky (not like Shakespeare at all) and also the rules with which they lived and acted were unclear to me.

I wanted to like it, but it was not for me. For someone who doesn't know Shakespeare, it might be a nice introduction into the subject.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

Review
4 Stars
Safely Endangered
Safely Endangered - Chris McCoy

Safely Endangered was a lot of fun! I wasn't really familiar with the webcomic, but after reading the book I'm sure I've seen some before. The comics were light and observant, and there was just the right mix to keep it fresh all through the book. Nice to see the references to many books/movies/games.

Enjoyed it a lot.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

Review
2 Stars
Oh No
Oh No - Alex Norris

Oh no, this didn't work for me.

I don't follow the webcomic, but have come across a couple of them on the internet. However, I think, for me, this comic is best appreciated in small doses. There being so much repetition and them all having the same end, made that it got old very quickly for me. The style was also not really for me. But I guess it will be a nice collection if you're a big fan of the comic.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

Review
4 Stars
Mooncop
Mooncop - Tom Gauld

I picked up Mooncop because I'd previously read Baking with Kafka, a collection of comics mainly about books. Mooncop is very different but also not. It is one long story about a police officer who is running out of work (but keeps a 100% solving rate of all non-existing crime) on a dwindling moon colony. It's the futility of his work really.

It's sad but in a beautiful way, and I enjoyed it way more than I thought I would. The drawings are simple and much like the short comics, and they tell the story in the right way.

Cute book.

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